Formula 1

Ferrari finishes the first practice session with a 1-2

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Credit: Ferrari Media

Following the news of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez remaining on the Formula One calendar until 2025, the Mexcian Grand Prix kicked off on Friday evening with the first free practice session.

A clutch of drivers is featured in this practice session, including Scuderia AlphaTauri’s 2023 driver Nick De Vries standing in for George Russell.

Unsurprisingly the stands were full of Sergio Perez fans as they cheered on the hometown hero, who made the podium at his home race last year.

Despite Perez fans being incredibly dominant in the stands, it was Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team, driver Sebastian Vettel who won the ‘race’ to make it first out on the track. As a mark of respect and a touching tribute, Vettel returned to one of his most iconic helmet designs as a tribute to Dietrich Mateschitz following the sad news last week of his passing.

The home favorite was the next to emerge onto the track, the Oracle Red Bull Racing team seemingly unphased at the penalty, of a $7 million fine and reduced aerodynamic development allowance, that they were served earlier today.

It looked as if Lance Stroll was the first to set a competitive time, but was immediately beaten by Max Verstappen, who set a time 1.4s faster than Stroll and cleared his team-mate by 0.6s.

After the first stint of the session, the white-walled hard compound had been the favorite across the grid. With the Pirelli tyre check coming up later this afternoon, it could be that the teams are taking advantage of the first session and pushing hard on the race work to avoid missing out on opportunities later in the afternoon.

The mid-session lull caught up quickly on the teams as most of the cars fled to the pit lane to regroup. At this time Verstappen was at the top of the grid, following Perez and Scuderia Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. with Mercedes AMG PETRONAS Formula One Lewis Hamilton down in twelfth.

But that was soon to change, as after repairing a surprise flat tyre, Charles Leclerc headed back out on track and flew round the circuit as he set the time to beat, an impressive 1:21.546 on the soft tyre, which seemed to trigger a flood of tyre changes for the rest of the teams as the soft tyre became the compound of choice for the rest of the paddock.

The session seemed to be running smoothly, with Sainz pipping his team-mate to the first position, setting a lap time of 1:20.707s on the soft compounds, a mere 0.046s clear of Leclerc, with BWT Alpine F1 driver Fernando Alonso moving up to the third position. But a smooth running session was almost too good to be true as the stewards issued a red flag, but not for Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN driver Zhou Guanyu, who stopped at the mouth of the pit lane.

Engine failure for temporary Haas driver Pietro Fittipaldi, brother of F2 driver Enzo Fittipaldi, was instructed to ‘immediately stop the car’ as smoke could be seen billowing from the back of the car as he drove down the straight. Kevin Maggnasun watched from the pit wall and didn’t look overly happy that his car seemed to be smoking. After Antonio Giovonazzi’s unfortunate collision with the barriers at the last first practice session, things seem to have gotten off to a bad start for the Haas team this weekend.

After all the bad news that Haas would have to fit a new engine, attention turns to Sainz, who still held the top position on the timesheet with Leclerc close behind, making Ferrari the team to beat with just under ten minutes of the session remaining.

Jack Doohan, in place of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon this session, retires from the session early, as a precaution, the car leveraged up onto the jacks in the garage. With nine minutes remaining, Doohan finished the session in the ninetieth position. We won’t see him again until the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi to replace Fernando Alonso.

The session finished under a red flag, with just two minutes remaining in the session, the opening session in Mexico City was cut short after rookie Liam Lawson stopped in his AlpaTauri AT03 after the brakes got a bit smokey.

Carlos Sainz Jr managed to hang on to the first position thanks to the early termination of the session, with his team-mate Charles Leclerc following the home favourite Sergio Perez, Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Valterri Bottas, Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly and Sebastian Vettel as the top ten.

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